Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Clash of the Dinosaurs: Highs & Lows
The Discovery Channel started a new dinosaur series on Sunday called, um, Clash of the Dinosaurs. I think it discusses new ideas about dinosaur biology and evolution, I'm not really sure. I watch it for the talking heads, honestly, who are people I know and have met, which is awesome. I urge you to watch the first episode and make your own determination, but here's my rundown of the pros and cons.
In the Green Corner...
1. The dinosaurs look really nice. Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Sauroposeidon, Deinonychus, and Quetzelcoatlus are the stars and the artists put some time and effort into these critters. For the first time since I can remember, these TV-special-calibur CG dinosaurs look better than the beasties in Walking With Dinosaurs, a benchmark I've been hoping somebody will overcome for the better part of a decade. They even put (some) feathers on the raptors, so there you go.
2. They had an animation of Quetzelcoatlus landing...and then taking off! You better believe I rewound and replayed those sequences about five times each. Easily the highlight of the episode for me. The rest was pretty standard dinosaur vs. dinosaur fare. And hey, then the big pterosaur chowed down on a baby T.rex, so bonus points all around!
3. Thomas Holtz bringing the smackdown to T.rex as a scavenger (briefly). Always appreciated. I can't help but notice and be amused by the fact that he and Bakker are now the go-to guys for T.rex, but Horner was nowhere to be found. A welcome change!
4. Matt Wedel really likes Sauroposeidon, and explains the hazardous life history of giant sauropods really, really well.
5. The T.rex bit off the Trike's postorbital horn! AWESOME! And then it got stabbed in the eye (and, from the looks of it, brain)! YET MORE AWESOME! I winced, internally. Look, folks! They're basing their behavior animations on fossil evidence now! Another bridge has been crossed.
In the Red Corner...
1. Limited animation sequences repeated endlessly. How many times do I have to see the same X-ray view of T.rex sniffing the air? How many dinosaurs is that baby T.rex going to fall out of its egg? How many times do I get to see that angry Triceratops bellow? About a million each, apparantly.
2. Everybody is ga-ga for raptors hunting in packs. It's a hypothesis, sure, but I was hoping that somebody would bring up that one study that convincingly suggested that they were more like varanids than canines. That analogy WAS applied to T.rex, but in a throw-away manner.
3. They show kept pounding away at the idea that T.rex was some sort of Einstein among dinosaurs, but then concluded by saying they were all morons who got along thanks to their physical adaptations (they didn't need to be smart). Make up your mind, Discovery Channel. For whatever reason, they pulled "four miles away" out of their ass for "how far away T.rex could see things." The implication being that "things" means "prey items." I'm doubting that. A mountain? Sure. A Trike? Maybe not.
4. Are those hatchling sauropods rising from a sandy nest, or adults moving through a sand dune? It's hilariously unclear.
5. Sauropods had no way of defending themselves from attack? How about kicking, tail-whipping, or stomping? The juvenile Sauroposeidon, which looked about as big as an Astrodon given the trees around it, just kinda stood there while the raptors tore it apart.
6. Dinosaurs are no daikaiju. You don't need to slow their motion down to impart a sense of size. In reality, big animals are very capable of making incredibly fast movements. Have you ever seen a spooked (or pissed-off) elephant? That sucker makes unbelievably quick movement. Jerky, reflexive motions. The same principle can be applied to dinosaurs, but you never see it. Not here, not anywhere.
So that's the rundown. Again, I encourage you to watch it because overall it's quite good. Since it's a cable network, it's probably on at least once a day, so it shouldn't be too hard to catch a repeat.